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Back-to-School Planning During COVID-19

Current as of October 8, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, parents and students may be facing new uncertainties. Conditions across the world differ widely and continue to change rapidly. In addition, school reopening policies vary and often include instruction and scheduling options. With so many unknowns, making decisions as a parent can be difficult.

One resilience skill we have learned from life in recent months is to focus less on what we can’t control, and more on what we can. And what can we control right now? We can continue to stay informed and practice proven safety measures, and encourage our children to do the same. Evidence shows that safety measures like physical distancing, face coverings and improved hygiene such as frequent hand-washing and disinfecting commonly used surfaces reduce transmission of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for how to safely reopen schools. For detailed information see the following resources and check with your local school district. Your installation school liaison office can provide information and connect you to your local school district:

Back-to-school planning

If your child’s school is reopening and you want to start getting ready, here are some general tips:

  • Talk with your child. Starting school, or a new school year, can be stressful in the best of times. Make sure your child knows it’s OK to be nervous. Try these Red Cross tips for talking to kids about COVID-19 and keeping them healthy.
  • Discuss new policies and safety guidelines. First-time students may be fine with the new procedures. Returning students may need extra time and attention to get used to all the changes. Be sure to explain the need for safety measures, but try to highlight what’s exciting – like being able to see friends again and learn new things. And you can help your child build resilience by encouraging them to look at difficulties as challenges and chances for them to grow.
  • Adjust the schedule. Start to tweak your child’s daily schedule a couple of weeks before the first day of school. Making bedtimes earlier and screen times shorter can help your child develop a healthy morning routine and get ready for the new school year.
  • Check the program. If your child has an individualized education program, review services he or she will receive. Learn about any changes due to new safety guidelines, and talk with your child about them. If you are moving and your child will be attending a new school, check your child’s services there before your move. If you have questions or need backup, your installation Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support staff and special needs consultants can help you identify additional resources and tools your child can use to succeed.
  • Plan around sales. Know when the tax holiday on school supplies will be, and plan accordingly. Look for the supplies list for your child’s classes on the school’s website or ask for one at local office-supply stores. And remember, every day is a tax holiday at the commissary and exchange.
  • Discuss clothes. Chat with your child about what they want to wear before you buy it. This way, you’ll avoid purchasing and returning clothing your child won’t wear, and these small decision-making exercises can help children make larger decisions down the road.

Educational resources

Take advantage of online educational resources. Help your kids get back into a school mindset as they reinforce reading skills, learn stress-management practices, build a paper Mars helicopter or participate in youth programs online. Resources include:

  • The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library offers an amazing variety of education and entertainment resources for all ages. Programs include BookFlix, Explora Primary, Mango Languages and many more. The Teachables program offers printable activities for children pre-K through grade 6.
  • provides live, on-demand tutoring, test preparation and homework help in more than 100 subjects, for students in kindergarten through college.
  • Thrive is a free, online parenting-education program from a Department of Defense partnership with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. It offers evidence-based, positive-parenting practices for children from birth to age 18. Check out its downloadable resources for stress reduction, healthy eating and physical activities.
  • Sesame Street for Military Families offers a variety of resources including activities, games, videos and the Breathe, Think, Do wellness app.
  •  Helping Your Child Become a Reader provides tips from the U.S. Department of Education for parents of young children.
  • NASA STEM has a wide variety of science, math, engineering and technology ideas for students in kindergarten through college to encourage the next generation of explorers.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America Virtual Club currently offers 11 programs youths can participate in via the MyFuture social platform. Programs include Digital Literacy Essentials, Media Making, Computer Science, Visual Arts and more.
  • Making School Fun at Home offers helpful tips from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for supporting learning at home for children of all ages.

Talk with an education consultant

If you would like to talk to an expert about educational concerns, Military OneSource offers free and confidential one-on-one sessions with professionals knowledgeable about education resources. Find out how to Ease Back-to-School Transitions With a Military OneSource Education Consultant.

COVID-19 continues to create challenges, and Military OneSource is here to help. Consultants are available 24/7 anywhere in the world to help you stay strong while you navigate military life. No matter what kind of questions or concerns you have, you can call us at 800-342-9647, call OCONUS or start a live chat.

Understanding of COVID-19 continues to change, so check our Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page. Want to find the phone number for your installation’s housing office or Military and Family Support Center? Find those and more on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, an online information directory for military installations worldwide. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website. You can also follow your installation’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community:

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